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10 Reasons Some People Get Ahead in Their Careers While Others Don't

In these competitive times, advancing in your career is far from automatic. Those who sit back and wait for things to happen for them often end up frustrated, disillusioned, and burned out. In contrast, those who look for opportunities and seize them seem to have “better luck” than others. Of course, it’s not luck at all.

If you’re looking to move ahead in the workplace, you’d do well to learn from those who seize the day and seem to advance easily. Here are the top 10 traits of people who advance in their careers.

1. They Enjoy a Challenge

Too many people, when faced with a time-consuming project or a lengthy assignment, try to shirk their responsibilities or “delegate” them to others. But those who advance don’t shrink away from challenges and adversity. They see these times as opportunities to learn and grow—a new project, a new boss, or a new office are all chances to grow in a new way.

To advance in your career, embrace challenges instead of shrinking away. Not only will your skill set come out stronger as a result, your manager and other company higher-ups will see you taking the initiative. Remember, rewards come to those who stand out—not those who blend into the background.

2. They See Failures as Opportunities

Dealing with failures as a professional is very difficult. You feel as if you’ve let yourself and your colleagues down. However, those who advance in their industries see failures as opportunities. Rather than blaming others or beating themselves up for making a mistake, they learn from their experience and focus on doing better in the future.

When you see failure as an opportunity to grow, you’ll be less prone to the emotional upset associated with it and you’ll advance in your career more quickly.

3. They Possess Confidence

It’s amazing how an aura of capability makes people think you really are capable. Those who advance quickly possess confidence—in themselves, their work, and their career plan. This confidence helps others trust them, which helps them be seen as leaders.

As you pursue your next promotion, remember to build and exude confidence. Even if you’re a naturally shy person, you can learn to change the way you hold yourself, your body language, the tone of your voice, and more with consistent practice.

4. They Are Optimistic

No one likes to be around a co-worker who constantly complains and sees the negative in everything. Those who advance quickly are optimistic, seeing solutions instead of problems. They aren’t unwilling to admit to challenges, but instead, they look for ways to overcome them.

To advance more quickly in your career, try looking on the brighter side. If optimism doesn’t come naturally to you, practice at home by writing down three to five things a day that you’re grateful for. These can be small things—like the fact that you hit a green light at a busy intersection. No matter what you write down, learning to see the good throughout your life will carry over into your performance at the office.

5. They Are Open to Feedback

Being coachable is a major part of succeeding in business. Those who are promoted rapidly take feedback well and are able to learn from it and implement changes. Instead of seeing feedback as criticism of your work, see it as constructive—you’ll be on the path to moving ahead quickly.

If criticism tends to throw you—leaving you either angry with rage or teary with disappointment—learn to take a few minutes to compose yourself before responding to the feedback. Try saying something like, “I appreciate the feedback, but I’d like to take a few minutes to reflect on it privately. Can we discuss this further in an hour?”

6. They Look for a Mentor

Having someone on your side who can advocate for you is a big part of being promoted swiftly. Those who are successful seek out mentors whom they can learn from. Then, they also benefit from that manager or leader advocating for them or pointing out potential opportunities to take on new responsibilities.

Look for a mentor in your company who can help get you on the fast track, but don’t take the mentor-mentee relationship lightly. If a senior manager offers to assist you in this way, either in a formal or informal mentorship capacity, be respectful of his or her time and do your best to repay the favor whenever possible.

7. They Are Flexible

While succeeding isn’t about giving up all your nights and weekends, being flexible has its advantages. Sometimes being flexible isn’t about more hours at all—it’s just as much about being willing to head up a project when you expected a quiet month in the office. To succeed in your career, do your best to be more flexible with the changing demands of the business. Your boss will notice.

8. They Focus on Results

In business, it’s not about whose job a task is—it’s about getting the task done. Those who advance quickly focus on results—their own, their department’s, and the company’s. They don’t waste time with blaming or shifting responsibility. They dig in and get the work done. When you do this in your work, you’ll be positioning yourself well for success.

9. They Aspire for More

Sometimes, the only difference between someone who gets promoted and someone who doesn’t is the “want it” factor. When you make it known that you aspire for more from your job and company, you’ll put yourself out there as someone who’s available for additional responsibility and promotion.

Of course, you’ll need to be careful with this one. Gossiping openly about how you deserve a better title isn’t going to do you any favors, so learn to show, not tell. Make it clear to your immediate supervisor that you’re interested in advancement opportunities, but also prove that you’re willing to put in the work to be worthy of them.

10. They Are Good at Negotiation

It’s no secret that it’s hard to create win-win situations on the job. Often, no matter how hard you work to avoid it, some people feel short-changed in a situation, while others feel they won. Those who succeed quickly are those who learn to help everyone feel great about a particular outcome and stress the positive points for everyone involved.

The good news about all 10 of these traits is that they can be learned and developed. Don’t feel like those who advance rapidly in their careers are somehow better than you. They’ve simply mastered these 10 traits and used them to their best advantage. With a little practice, you can too.

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